5 Things to Watch for During NY Knicks' Final Games
A year full of incompetence, embarrassment and the occasional win leaves little for Knicks fans to anticipate over New York's remaining games.
However, for the optimists, there are still a few reasons to tune into each outing.
Carmelo Anthony's days with the franchise may be numbered, but he's performing at the highest level of his career, contributing in more ways than simply scoring.
Tim Hardaway Jr.'s development is also an area of intrigue. Will he continue to grow, or will a series of blunders limit the minutes he receives?
Let's take a look at what Knicks fans can watch out for as this miserable season inches closer to its end.
Tim Hardaway Jr.'s Growth
Tim Hardaway Jr.'s playing time and responsibilities have grown over the second half of the year.
In February he attempted 11.8 field goals per game, and so far in March he has 10.3 attempts per game. But his stroke has been sporadic over this span. Throughout February he knocked down only 37 percent of his shots, and over his last four games, he's gone 26.8 percent from the field.
Despite his struggles, the courage he's exhibited by stepping up and trying to relieve some of the scoring pressure from Carmelo Anthony is something New York desperately needs. How Hardaway Jr. climbs out of this shooting slump will speak volumes about the kind of career he will have.
Back in November, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson referred to Hardaway Jr. as “...a young kid that’s poised.”
In that same piece, Anthony also added that Hardaway Jr.'s "confidence is sky high. His work ethic. How much time he puts in. It pays off and shows when he gets on the basketball court.”
His defense, while it is mediocre to below average presently, should improve over the course of the season and his career. As he gets stronger and more acclimated to the NBA game and his opponents, he will be less of a liability and more of a well-rounded competitor.
Tuning in to witness this progress is one of the few redeeming qualities about the Knicks.
Carmelo Anthony's Body Language
Carmelo Anthony has had a marvelous season statistically. Unfortunately, everything he does on the court is barely enough to lift the Knicks past their opponents.
Whether or not he starts slouching and showing disinterest in the middle of games could be the teaser that helps fans grasp how likely it is that he remains in New York past this season.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News had this to say:
Melo’s a good guy who doesn’t want to damage his image by appearing to turn his back on New York. However, most reasonable folks would agree that leaving this disaster is the prudent career move for Anthony. He should sign with Chicago, Miami or the Lakers and pursue that elusive title.
Anthony won't cave in and start chucking random shots for his own amusement, but if the writing is on the wall that NY isn't enjoyable anymore, it's doubtful that he'll continue going after every rebound and doing all of the little things that has made this one of the best statistical seasons of his career.
Analyzing his body language is the best window into his mind and the easiest way to surmise the decision he has to make this offseason.
If Toure' Murry's Playing Time Increases
The New York Knicks have a young point guard sitting idly on the bench who is the team's second best perimeter defender. When and if Toure' Murry will ever get a chance to exhibit his defensive abilities, as well as grow offensively into a prominent playmaker, is up to Mike Woodson.
For whatever reason, the struggling Raymond Felton continues to get the lion's share of minutes at the 1, while Murry watches and cheers from the sidelines.
When he received a fair share of minutes in the first few games of 2014, he contributed and sparked a few rallies with his defensive intensity. Over the remaining games, it will be interesting to see if the head coach turns to Murry and lets him show us what he can do.
Murry may never develop into a star point guard, but he's already the team's best defender at the 1. In a year with little left to look forward to, it only makes sense that a young player of his caliber should get the opportunity to showcase his skills and possibly ignite a few easy baskets in transition.
New York has nothing to lose by playing him more. If and when his minutes increase, his performance will be worth keeping an eye on.
Amar'e Stoudemire's Impact
So far in March, Stoudemire is scoring 16 points per game and knocking down 65.9 percent of his field goals. His impact has been positive of late, and he could be the catalyst that helps sneak the Knicks into the playoffs if they win the majority of their remaining games, and some divine intervention causes the teams ahead of them in the standings to struggle.
It's worth eyeing his impact from here on out. If he continues scoring easily and finishes without any physical setbacks, it may increase his trade value in the offseason. His contract will be expiring heading into the 2014-15 NBA season.
A healthy STAT is an effective scorer who relieves pressure from his teammates, and there may be an organization or two that is willing to take on the health risks that come with him.
If there aren't any takers, a healthy Stoudemire would be worth holding onto until his contract expires, when he may be willing to re-sign for significantly less than his current deal. Watching his impact over these last few games will help determine which direction New York should go as the roster is retooled.
Tyson Chandler's Effort
Via Marc Berman of the New York Post, it sounds like Tyson Chandler is uncertain of his future with the Knicks: "That’s something I have to visit during the offseason. We’re all going to have a lot of decisions to make."
Despite the losses that continue to pile up, he has done his part to rebound and try to keep the Knicks together defensively: "For me, it’s important regardless [to finish out strong]. I got a lot more pride than this, coming in night in, night out losing, and not putting forth the type of effort it takes to win. At this stage of my career and what I’ve established, I refuse to let it put a blemish on it."
Over his last 10 games, Chandler has grabbed at least 11 boards per outing and has racked up at least 14 rebounds five times over that span.
He is human, however, and it is human nature to begin tuning out and losing focus as the season winds down and the losses continue to mount. Like Carmelo Anthony, Chandler's effort on the court and his body language can tell Knicks fans how likely it is that he will demand a trade in the offseason.
If he begins playing lackadaisical defense and loses the energy on the glass that he has become known for, it may signal the end of his run in NY—especially if Melo signs elsewhere.
Chandler is one of the few valuable assets on the roster, and it makes sense to part ways with him for a younger athlete in the offseason. How hard he plays to close out the year will determine his future and the caliber of player that the Knicks can net in a trade.
Stats are accurate as of Saturday, March 8, 2014.